New Labour gets frisky

Security was tight at the Bournemouth conference – and the delegates loved it.

Grace Walker

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Topics Politics

Security was bound to be tight, but you would be forgiven for thinking the Labour party conference was a dry run for a roll-out of the national identity card. Not content with the ‘ring of steel’ created at last year’s conference, delegates were delighted with an extra thick security burger (without the freedom fries).

First there were police at the entrance inspecting everyone’s conference pass. Fair enough. But then came the X-ray machine and the metal detectors, set so high that a filled tooth would trigger lights and sirens.

The piece de resistance was the barcode machine. It was like something out of the sci-fi film Gattaca, where society is divided into the genetic ‘valids’ and ‘invalids’ and police randomly test people with mobile blood-testing and iris recognition kits. In real-life Bournemouth, a steward scanned a barcode on the back of the pass, and your photo appeared on a computer screen along side the words ‘valid pass’. Unless, of course, it flashed ‘invalid barcode’ and made a loud buzz, at which point red-faced delegates would lie prostrate on the ground.

But the techno-laced paranoia wasn’t the strange bit. Far from resenting being treated like al-Qaeda suspects, delegates loved it.

I saw one trade unionist have a three-foot wooden flag pole confiscated by police in between stages two and three of entering the conference complex. ‘They didn’t take that off you did they?’ I asked, with mock incredulity. ‘Oh yes’, he smiled. ‘But you can’t blame them, can you?’

One former university acquaintance of mine, now working with Millbank’s fabled Excalibur in the response and rebuttal unit, even boasted that security at the previous week’s Lib Dem conference was ‘woeful, absolutely woeful’. It was ‘so bad’ that he was able to slip into the press gallery and feed reporters quick-fire come-backs to speeches made on the conference floor. Just imagine what you could do with a well-timed paper-cut and a Palm organiser.

Late one evening, various notables were seen chatting to a man dressed as Saddam Hussein. ‘I cannot beelieeeeve they let him in dressed like that’, said a colleague.

Just shove the radioactive implants under my skull and get it over with.

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